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How Does God Appear to You?

I’ve been thinking a lot about God again.  Perhaps it is because I am about to spend a week at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality‘s Hevraya retreat for Rabbis and Cantors.  Perhaps it is because we will be talking about God and how we see God at Adult Study Shabbat services this Friday night.  More likely, I am thinking about God because, well, God is a part of my life and just like I think about my wife and kids and co-workers and family and friends… I think about God a lot too. 

This week’s parasha (Torah portion) provides a great place to enter the discussion.  God announces to Moses who (or what) God is.  Ehiyeh asher ehiyeh – I am what I am, I am what I will be, I was what I will be – I am the totality of existence.  Not a Being.  Not an idol.  Not a Thing. I am Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey… a combination of three verbs – Was, Is, Will Be.  I AM! 

What does that mean?  My colleague, Rabbi Laura Geller, wrote a beautiful D’var Torah this week that explores this idea.  Our congregation will discuss it at Friday night services at 7:30 pm this Shabbat.  Read on, then comment and/or come to services.

D’var Torah by Rabbi Laura Geller
(Originally published in Ten Minutes of Torah and Reform Voices of Torah and RJ.org)

It happened again this week–this time at the gym. Just as I was finishing my workout, someone called to me:
“You’re Rabbi Geller, right?”
“Right.”
“You know what, rabbi? I don’t believe in God.”

It is hard to know how to respond when that happens. Usually I mumble about giving me a call to discuss it. Other times, when I have more time, I ask the person to describe the “god” he or she doesn’t believe in.

Nine times out of ten it is the god that the person first met as a child, the one who looks like an old man with a beard who lives somewhere in the sky and knows if you’ve been bad or good. The person is usually surprised when I say: “You know, I don’t believe in that ‘god’ either.”

The more we talk, the more the person shares how for him, coming to synagogue only reinforces that image of a god. Even our prayer book, gender neutral as it is, seems to support the image of a powerful ruler, delivering us from oppressors and saving us from tyrants. While the words don’t actually say it, this god looks like a king or a powerful father.

I don’t believe in that god either.

This week’s Torah portion begins: “God spoke to Moses . . . . ‘I am the Eternal. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make myself known to them by My name YHVH.’ ” Read more.

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